Growing a Network of GAPs Educators in the Upper Midwest

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2012: $74,385.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Michele Schermann
University of Minnesota

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: extension, networking, workshop

    Proposal abstract:

    The purpose of this project is to develop curricula and provide in-depth training and information regarding Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and on-farm food safety practices to educators and other professionals who work with fruit and vegetable growers in Minnesota and the upper Midwest.

    Improved GAPs are critical to maintain the competitiveness and sustainability of Minnesota’s fruit and vegetable industry and protect the food supply from unintended microbial contamination. Farmers need help understanding and adopting GAPs on their farm, but few resources exist to help them outside a few key GAPs specialists in the state.

    This project will provide four two-day training sessions to key agricultural educators and professionals in the region. Each training session will also include and on-site farm visit to provide a participatory experience and a chance to see fundamental applications of food safety practices. These educators will then return to their communities, and provide training for other professionals and farmers, thus disseminating accurate, clear and useful GAPs information to farmers across the region. By educating cohorts of agricultural professionals, farmers will gain access to GAPs educators in their regions for years to come. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The project will be comprised of 4 specific activity areas:

    1. An advisory group--including farmers, agriculture professionals, Extension Educators, and Latino and Hmong agriculture professionals and farmers--will meet early to develop goals, evaluation tools, outcomes and training activities. The group will meet regularly throughout the project period, to provide guidance and suggestions for workshop topics, review documents and curricula, and provide assistance and suggestions for recruiting participants within each region. Efforts will be made to ensure that the group represents each geographic region of the state.

    1. A series of 2-day hands-on GAPs workshops will be developed and implemented for agricultural professionals and Extension educators in the Upper Midwest. The model will be train-the-trainer, where educators participate in an intensive learning workshop and are provided with tailored educational materials that they can then use with farmer constituents in their regions. Each of the four workshops will have approximately 15-20 participants.

    The workshops will be offered in four regions of the state and will target specific audiences (actual location and time may vary slighty):

    • Northwest Minnesota – Fall, 2014 (includes North and South Dakota) – non-profit, State Health Improvement Program (SHIP) and agency personnel (Moorhead)
    • Southern Minnesota – Spring, 2014 Extension Educators(Mankato)
    • Central/Northeast Minnesota – Spring, 2015 UMN Regional Sustainable Development Partnership and other Extension personnel (Brainerd or Cloquet)
    • Metro area – Fall, 2015 Agricultural professionals who work with Hmong, Latino and immigrant farmer populations. (Twin Cities)

    Adapting materials from previously created curricula here and in other states, the project team will tailor the materials to Upper Midwest-specific audiences to reflect the typical cultural growing practices, vegetables and fruits grown, and environmental situations. Workshop content will include:

           a.    Risk assessment and decision making. Discussion will cover the ecology of pathogens, food safety risk factors on a farm, how to develop a framework for risk control, and decision making tools to determine the most economically feasible risk reduction practices.

           b.    Identification of common hazards and risks for the region. While the hazards are the same throughout the US, local and regional variation exists and need to be considered when discussing manure and compost, irrigation water, washing and processing water, and wildlife and pest intrusions. Handwashing and worker health and hygiene, packinghouse and equipment cleanliness will be covered. The available science behind the risk management guidance will be provided.

           c.    Writing a food safety plan. Participants will learn the purpose and benefits and practical aspects of creating individualized farm food safety plan. Examples and templates will be provided.

           d.    Supplemental training materials. For participants who may be doing group teaching we will also provide instruction on adult learning styles and cultural teaching considerations when teaching immigrant and minority growers, how to facilitate a food safety workshop, and provide sample workshop agendas, PowerPoint slide sets, and resource lists.

    Workshop delivery. Each workshop will consist of two consecutive days of in-person training (each day 6-8 hours). The first day will consist of lectures and discussion on the science of foodborne illnesses and pathogens, discussions and hands-on demonstrations, such as how to build and use portable handwashing stands and use sanitizer in produce rinse water.

    The second day will include more classroom-based learning, followed by a 2-3 hour on-farm field session at a nearby farm to provide participants with a chance to see key applications of food safety on the farm.  Host farmers will be compensated for their time for hosting these field sessions. On one day of each training a farmer who has adopted GAPs and a written food safety plan will be invited to speak about the challenges and benefits of creating an on-farm food safety plan and implementing food safety practices. Farmer-speakers will be paid for their time preparing for and speaking at the workshop. Each day will also have a “teach-back” component, where all participants, working in small groups, will develop a short educational lesson or demonstration on a specific topic for other participants.

    All participants will leave with the necessary materials to return to their regions and share information with farmers and peer agricultural educators: this will include course materials, including editable PowerPoint presentations for various audiences, a binder of course materials, and a jump drive pre-loaded with the Food Safety Plan Template and educational videos.

    1. Online learning module. In the week following the in-person course, each participant will complete an online module. The module will be housed on a webpage within the UMN’s Agricultural Health and Safety Program’s site. Each participant will have 2-3 days to review mock tasks or questions that will be posed by the project team. The questions may be an examples similar to those farmers frequently ask at food safety trainings, such as “How do I write a policy and procedure for handwashing on my farm?” Each participant will research and use the materials offered in class to answer the questions. All answers will be submitted electronically.

    After successful completion of the workshop and online module, participants will receive a confirmation that they have completed the GAPS training course. With permission, the new GAPs trainers’ names and contact information will be posted on our website and the RSDP Local Foods website as resources for farmers.

    1. Evaluation and program sharing.  Project staff and the advisory team will conduct rigorous evaluation of all program activities to ensure adoption of intended skills and behaviors. All participants will complete pre- and post-workshop evaluations to measure the skills, knowledge and confidence they gained about GAPs.  At the conclusion of the 2-day course, participants will be asked to maintain a list of GAPs-related questions from farmers and the answers they give in order to assess how well project staff anticipated needs and identify any new areas of need. Project staff will follow up with participants 4 months after the workshop to assess the change in knowledge and confidence to use the knowledge as well as attitude change related GAPs.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.